4-Day work week?

Sounds like the dream situation of a lazy highschooler, not a calculated concept to reduce emissions and actually increase American productivity while increasing overall health and quality of life.
Aaron Newton from Groovygreen.com, presents a detailed list of 16 reasons why changing the standard American workweek from five days to four would be better for everyone. And they don’t all center around sleeping in.

Some of the benefits listed were:
1. Reduce the number of commuters, and therefore the demand for oil. With about 133 million workers in America, and 80% of them driving to work in a car alone, and the average commute spanning 16 miles, these are the numbers for what would be saved if we eliminated the fifth day from the workweek. 3,404,800,000 / 21 mpg (average fuel efficiency) = 162,133,333 gallons of gasoline each day.

Each barrel of crude oil produces, on average, 19.5 gallons of gas. (It is important to note that other products like kerosene and asphalt are produced from that same barrel)

162,133,333 / 19.5 = 8,314,530 barrels of oil each day.

2. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions, therefore lessening pollution. 60 – 70% of urban air pollution is caused by cars, so taking 20% of them off the roads during the most heavily traveled time of the day would obviously reduce the overall amount of pollutants.

3. Reduce worker exposure to pollutants. A recent study by the California EPA says “50% of a person’s daily exposure to ultra fine particles (the particles linked to cardiovascular disease and respiratory illnesses) can occur during a commute.” A report by the Clean Air Task Force in 2007 found diesel particle levels were between 4 to 8 times higher in commute vehicles than in the surrounding air.

Now, anyone would argue the obvious problem with this concept would be loss of productivity and income, but the article describes how this would be offset by the money that would be saved on fuel costs, car repair, and money paid in taxes that support road repair necessitated by heavy commuting traffic.

The article lists facts like this one, from www.ridetowork.org:
“2002 annual household private vehicle expense is $7,371. This is divided into $3,665 for vehicle purchases, $1,235 for gas and oil and $2,471 for insurance and misc.”

Ultimately, the article concludes, concentrating the work week into four days would increase the morale and efficiency of employees, and therefore accident and insurance rates would improve, and the end effect would be that the unit cost of production would lower, enabling employers to pay the same for six hours that they normally paid for eight.

While the idea is an intelligent and insightful proposal, I think the major obstacle would be the driving consumer nature of the average American. Our lives are structured around working as much as it takes to procure the things we think we need to be fulfilled. Most people have loaded themselves up with so many payments and credit card bills, a five day work week is a necessity. But, why do we have these things? So we can display our status as affluent Americans, able to afford whatever we want. We need other people to be around to see us so the process can be complete. If we all routinely had an additional day off, we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves. My god, you mean, stay home? But, who are you unless you’re looked at? What’s the point of having a designer bag if no one sees you wearing it? Stay home, and, gasp, read!? Does that mean the kids don’t have to go to daycare or school that day, too? You mean, spend time with the kids? That would necessitate being a part of their education for a day, being their teacher, turning the TV off and opening a book. I don’t know if we can handle that. It’s a pretty crazy price to pay just to reduce the fuel shortage and curb emissions. That’s a pretty heavy price to pay just to improve our lives.

Read the full article here, and tell us what you think.

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